The Search for Back Country

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After traveling around the world, I’ve discovered a lot of opinions on England, with some of the most common conversations go like this:

Example One

New buddy: “Oh, you’re from England, I’ve been there, where about’s are you from?”
Me: “Shropshire” followed by blank pause, “West midlands… near Wales…”
New buddy: “So, north of London?”

Example Two

New buddy: “You ride mountain bikes? Did you start that out here in Canada, there’s nowhere to ride in England, it’s all flat isn’t it?”

 

So, as you can imagine, I had a little bit of educating to do: “Yeeeah, London is as pretty south as you can go”… “There are so many incredible places to ride all across the Britain, some of the best mountain bike racers in the world come from my home town, Shrewsbury.”

Most people are always so surprised, their image of Britain is it’s: flat, busy, overcrowded, wet, grey with traffic-jams, football hooligans and bad teeth;

It has been my absolute pleasure in showing people otherwise. The first person I really got to show Britain’s beauty to, was my Canadian boyfriend, Mike Hopkins, his opinion wasn’t too dis-similar to others. Mike was shocked at how similar my home village, Snailbeach, was to his home town Rossland. Rossland is basically Snailbeach on steroids, an old mining town, on top of the hill, incredible riding trails straight out the front door, even going down the hill to the next village is the same, down the road to the factory town, with a reputation of being a little bit grubbier. People could think I’m literally talking about either one; a tiny, quaint english village on top of the hill, called Snailbeach, or, a quaint Canadian mountain town, called Rossland.

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It didn’t take Mike long to fall in love with my home village, beautiful scenery, awesome riding, with cool old buildings full of history… The deeper into the North Wales mountains we went the more Mike’s mind was blown, mesmerised by the perfectly built ancient stone walls guarding the tiny narrow roads for miles and miles.

Mikes visited a handful of times, but this time I wanted to take him to The Lake District in North England. This place is outstanding, I also have way more exploring of my own to do up there, but last year, during a race (The Three Peaks Yacht Race), I came across a beautiful cottage, tucked away in the middle of the tillest mountains in England. Since then I vowed to come back with Mike and stay in this little cottage; which turned out to be the most remote hostel in Great Britain, only accessable by foot, with the closest road nearly 10 kilometers away.

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I wanted to film our journey to show people that England has so much more to offer, we have back-country too and it’s beautiful.

So sit back and enjoy the video we put together, I mean it wouldn’t be a proper British trip without a little bit of rain… however, rain and shine, this place is specatular!

Kinesiology… Magic

I am LOVING Spring!!!!! I’m back visiting the UK after a loooong winter in Canada, and what a beautiful time to come home.

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After visiting Ben Calder at the Centre for Integral Health last week, I felt much better, I really looked forward to visiting Ben all winter.

The first thing I’d noticed after our Bowen session, was my lower back pain had decreased, still there but just lingering with certain movements rather than constantly. That’s one thing I’ve noticed with the Bowen Technique, the movements are subtle, but extremely effective; the more time you give it, the more benefits you start to notice.

This week, I wasn’t sure what to focus on with Ben, there seemed to be many areas he could help with … but which ones first, what was more important? Ben decided he was going to find out what my body needed, seeing as I didn’t have a clue. Now this is what I find fascinating: I lie there silently while Ben hold’s up my arm, muttering all sorts of questions and solutions that I don’t really understand, but as Ben asks certain questions my body reacts giving him the answer he needs. It’s like watching magic, how can my body answer something that I don’t even understand. It’s just proof that what we do, see, say, smell, touch, is a tiny percentage of what’s actually going on in our bodies and mind.

Baz Luhrman say’s it well…

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can, don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it… It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

Our bodies really are the greatest tools we’ll ever own, if we treat it well, it will look after us. Kinesiology is a fascinating and bizarrely accurate way of finding out what our bodies truly need. More often than not we end up giving our bodies something because it’s healthy and society says that’s what we should do, but every single person is different, and a diet/lifestyle suitable for one person isn’t necessarily best for another.

In my first Kinesiology session with Ben last year, I discovered I was a Red Body Type. There are just 3 body types which every single one of us fit in to, this doesn’t change from the day you’re born, the more sessions you have, the deeper the Kinesiologist will go with your personal requirements, but once you know you’re body type you can instantly start improving the quality of your life.  Within minutes Ben could tell me which sleep patterns suit me, when I should eat, what I should eat, what I shouldn’t eat, how much I should eat. Once we’re aware of what our bodies need, we can start functioning at our best. Although I technically had a very healthy diet, my body was only receiving 40% of the nutrients from the food I ate, there were certain foods restricting the abstraction of nutrients. I discovered my body works best on a low carb, high protein and moderate fat diet, I need breakfast first thing in the morning, an early nights sleep and an early wake up, I should be avoiding wheat and gluten and surprisingly, broccoli.

I’ve always thought I was more of a night Owl, regularly falling asleep after midnight, but on those occasions where I’d gone to sleep around 10pm, the following day would be far more productive and less of an effort. I feel happier within myself if I have an early morning with a good nights sleep; I had already started cutting back on wheat and carbs as I’d discovered they made me feel bloated and lethargic, but I never really liked eating breakfast too early.

When Ben told me all of the basic traits along with my body type, it instantly made sense; I became stricter with cutting out gluten, my sleep patterns and breakfast times. Within a week I had far more energy, I no longer felt sleepy throughout the day and the bloated feeling had gone. I was fascinated by the entire kinesiology process and raved about it to anyone and everyone who would listen.

My mum was very interested, and like myself, there were no specific issues she went in to fix, she was just curious. She was rather devastated to discover her body type should avoid all the night shade foods… Chilis, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines etc. These were Mums absolute favourite foods, but, she gave it a go, for 6 weeks she did what was advised, if there were no changes, she’d just go back to eating her favourite foods.

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However, after a couple of weeks, the difference was incredible. None of us knew, but mum had been suffering with chronic joint pain, she’d learnt to live with it and suffered in silence for years. She’d had an operation on her Achilles tendon years ago and we knew the op didn’t work, which meant she had to stretch every morning before she could walk, but all throughout the day she was stiff and uncomfortable. Every night she’d call for my Dad to pull her off the sofa; she’s in her mid 40’s, full of life and a bit of a drama queen, so we just put it to Mum being a bit dramatic, lazy, and tired. However, after a few weeks on her new diet, she started jumping off the sofa to go to bed. Me and Dad just looked at each other wondering what was happening, then Mum told us how she’d been suffering with constant joint pain and it had now gone.

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So… back to my most recent session with Ben, he asked my body what it needed, and after carrying out a handful of tests he found an issue with my Neural repair, which requires B5 to correct itself. He also preformed a reset procedure to help certain hormones and biochemicals to function better.

I was sent home with instructions on where to find the B5 vitamins I needed, and our next appointment was in the diary.

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Sort Me Out

A winter in British Columbia, Canada, is pretty rad; I had an incredible experience with an awesome job and it allowed me to drastically improve my skiing skillz; however, there were a few factors I really missed. Apart from the obvious: my British friends, family and little doglets, it’s been the first time I haven’t been able to ride my bike or run.

Although I did lots of DH skiing and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes, I really missed my cardio workouts. I’ve never felt so restricted and trapped by the weather. I know us Brits love a good moan, and for some reason it’s the weather that gets the brunt of our complaints, however, this winter really made me appreciated UK winters. Yes, it might be wet, muddy, dark, cold, but it never stops you going for a run or riding your bike, in-fact some of the funnest rides I’ve been on, was when the weather was terrible and you come home covered in mud, it’s the closest I get to feeling like a kid again.

I’m used to looking up at mountains, then going there, no questions asked. Please don’t get me wrong, Revelstoke is fantastic, full of badass athletes and professional skiers, with everyone getting out there ski-touring, but I wasn’t a skilled enough skier to head out into the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, you need to be a good skier who’s confident enough to handle avalanches… I am not!

With only a few short sessions cross country skiing and lots of Down-Hill skiing, It was the least active I’ve been in years, I put on weight, and although I did yoga every single morning, I’ve never been in so much non-injury related pain. Everything started to hurt, but why? Eventually I realized a connection; after having a trampoline accident 15 years ago, I always suffered with back pains, until I started running and biking regularly, then my back pain finally diminished. Stop me doing my regular endurance activities, throw me into a cold Canadian winter… I’m seizing up.

It’s now spring and I’m back home visiting the UK, first things first… I’m booking an appointment with Ben Calder at The Centre for Integral Health in Shrewsbury. I worked with Ben a lot last year and I had the pleasure to experience the effects of Bowen Technique. As a masseuse, I’m used to being very hands on, the deeper the massage, the better I feel, but Bowen Technique is completely different, it uses very subtle movements to reset the fascia in the muscle. I didn’t think I had any problem areas when I went to Ben, at first, I didn’t notice much difference… But as I continued going to Ben, the results were outstanding!

You know that tired feeling in your legs when you first start running or biking, it always takes a few minutes to warm up before your legs stop feeling so heavy… I no longer had that, my legs were full of energy and ready to go, it didn’t matter how much I’d done during the week, after seeing Ben regularly my legs were ready to go 24/7. I noticed I recovered from races a lot quicker; on average, races I competed in were 3-5 days long, 2-3 days practicing with 2-3 days racing. Each day I’d be riding for 7 hours, completing daily loops of 50K, sometimes more, after maintaining this for nearly a week I usually come home feeling hung over, tired and can’t even think about biking for a few days, I just eat copious amounts of food and sleep, but after seeing Ben my recovery time dropped substantially; I’d have one rest day then I’d be back to it, without any tired legs. I also noticed something else; I do a lot of running and when I push myself, it’s the same muscles that ache the next few days, but on one particular day, I entered a Park Run, ran my usual race, pushed myself like I usually do, not only did I get my PB for Shrewsburys course, completing in under 21 minutes, the next day muscles were hurting that I’ve never felt before. I’ve run Mountain Marathons and lots of 5-15mile Mountain races (fell runs) and not once have these muscles hurt. Ben enlightened me, my body was finally working efficiently, muscles have stopped compensating allowing the muscles I truly need to do there job, I was amazed and extremely excited.

Needless to say, I’ve really missed my regular appointments with Ben, I walked into Ben’s clinic feeling a wreck, he tested my muscles to see which ones were/weren’t working properly; interestingly he found my glutes and hamstrings were weak, as he started the treatment he found they weren’t firing properly and reset them. I’m looking forward to seeing how they test next time. I’ve struggled with my lower back and hips this winter, but, as soon as I stood up after the treatment, I instantly felt better, I was no longer seized up, I could’ve cried… It’s good to be home.

I’m finally able to train every day; road riding, running and mountain biking, I feel 100% better physically and mentally. Seeing Ben is the final piece to the puzzle, stay tuned to find out what he helps with next week.

Thank you Ben

Heli-Skiing … Whaaaaat

Over the season I worked At Eagle Pass Heli Ski lodge as the Masseuse, and part of my roll was to instruct the 6am stretch class with the guests. IMG_4898From day one I loved the job, Mike had to take off to Hawaii for a month to film Dream Ride 2; turns out we’ll have a handful of long distance episodes for a few years to come. However, it was great timing, I had my new job to adapt to and keep me occupied.

Getting up at 5am took about a week to get used to, one thing I continued to struggle with was the split shifts; some nights I’d be giving massages until 11pm, getting to bed past midnight, then, up again at 5am for stretch class. For awhile midday naps became essential, which didn’t leave as much time for skiing as I’d hoped. The staff were great, and within a few days I already had a nickname, apparently the chefs had misheard my name as Tron;

images I’d told them a little bit about my family and they just assumped my parents were some young hippie 80’s kids who called their first child Tron… Not far off haha!! I swiftly claimed the “Mega Tron” status, always followed by the classic super hero air punch.

 

I wasn’t even one week into work and I got to go heli-skiing. I’d just said bye to all the guests and their guide came running back in. “There’s a free spot, who can take it?”

He asked the chefs, they hadn’t done their training yet, they asked house keeping, she didn’t have her stuff… Finally they turned and asked me.

“Have you done your training?

I nodded

“Have you got your gear?”

A second nod

“Can you go?… ”

A third and final nod came shaking out, the staff were so stoked for me, leaping up rushing me to my things… “GO MEGA TRON!”

Before I knew it I was in my gear sitting in a helicopter … what just happened, I was still shaking, the adrenal came over me in a flash.

It was an insane day of skiing, luckily one of the guests was my level of skiing, so we stuck together. I had the biggest smile and before I knew it I’d accumulated another nickname; Giggles. As soon as we met up with the other heli group for lunch, my group couldn’t wait to tell them how funny I was: “whatever she does she has the biggest smile, she giggles non stop, even with every crash all you can hear is her giggling, we just started listening out for the giggles to know where she was.”

I had no idea how much I’d been giggling, and I definitely didn’t realize they could all hear me. It was an insane experience and I couldn’t have gone with a better group of guests.

After that experience I was on a mission to improve my skiing ability, if I had another chance I wanted to make sure I was stronger and less likely to hold the guests back. However, for an entire month I went nearly every day skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, but I just got worse and worse and worse. Mike was still in Hawaii, my new ski friends were all boarders so they couldn’t help me. I had zero control, I was crashing on the easiest of things, I’d be cruising down a groomer until … POW!! Right out of the blue I was tumbling down the hill like a washing machine full of shoes… you get me, zero grace, zero coolness. Until this point I’d started to find groomers boring, constantly darting off the tracks and into the trees, it felt so similar to biking: berms, rollers, jumps, ducking through trees – it was biking! Something was up, I couldn’t get down a groomer let alone through the trees. I was starting to dislike skiing, it made me anxious and I started avoiding it, maybe it just wasn’t my jam, I gave it my best shot though.

 

Finally Mike came home and we went skiing, I told him about the issues I was having, something was up, just no idea what. It reminded me of when I first started biking, I knew something was wrong but no idea where the problem was coming from or how to fix it, half the time I’d be horrified to find out my wheel was about to fall off. Now I’m way more in tune with my bike, and if I can’t fix it, I at least know where it stems from. Not with skiing though, even though it seems much simpler… I mean what is there to go wrong? Well I quickly learnt that for an entire month I’d been strapping up my boots the wrong way, such a subtle tweak but made THE WORLD of difference! I instantly felt more controlled, in the biking world it would’ve felt like all my bolts were loose, finally everything is tightened up and ready to go. I couldn’t ski for long that day, it was the first time all season I’d been able to strap my boots up, which means one thing… cramp, lots of cramp.

Now I know I don’t completely suck at skiing I had my zest back. Combined with work and HIIT classes at the gym I was pretty happy with the program I had going on.

Hellooo Canada…

So here we are, Mike and I met in New Zealand nearly 4 years ago, we battled through the highs and lows of a long distance relationship and now we were finally on the same continent.

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Things continued as usual, same old busy schedule, we were all over the map, staying in Vancouver, then to Revelstoke, then to Jasper, back to Revelstoke, up to Banff film festival and back to Revelstoke… all in less than a week!! Mikes film, Dream Ride was in the World Tour of the Banff Film Festival, so there we were representing Diamond Back and Dreamride! I was so proud of Mike, I’d seen how hard he worked putting this together, it was incredible to see his vision become reality and to see the video getting the reception it so rightly deserved.

DreamRide from Juicy Studios on Vimeo.

Once November hit, Revelstoke was pretty miserable, the sun seemed to set behind the Rocky Mountains by 2pm, it rained, and rained… and rained. I didn’t have a bike, and after injuring my back last year running was too painful. Whilst all the clued in locals left Revelstoke for most of November, Mike and I stuck it out. I had a job lined up but it didn’t start until January… It was admin time anyway, September – December is crunch time for locking in deals with sponsors for 2017, my proposal was dialled, a solid plan for 2017 was put into place, time to sell it like a boss.

I was in a great and conflicting spot, with 3 awesome offers on the table from different frame companies, leaving me torn, each sponsor meant something different to me with all reasons as good as the next. Finally I made the decision and signed the contract, becoming a rider for Diamond Back Bikes.

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From then on things started picking up, the snow seemed to arrive over night, I’d only done a handful of ski holidays before, so this winter was all about getting better at skiing.

I’d been in Canada for at nearly 2 months, which can only mean it’s time for my parents to visit; they’d actually booked their flights to come for Christmas before I’d booked my flight to move here in October #classic. Mike and I showed them around Revelstoke, I didn’t have the place figured out yet, but wanted them to see where I lived. I took dad skiing, we were like two kids at Christmas, Dad was the best ski buddy ever. Up for anything, smiled the entire time, and every crash (there were many) he’d jump/wiggle back up and kept on bombing down. Dad actually managed to get himself out of a lot crashes, just as we thought, for sure, he was going down, he stayed strong and rode it out. Which ended in nothing but nucks and cheers.

Mum wasn’t really into the idea of downhill skiing, so we went on an adventure to find a waterfall… turned out we were the only ones to make the trek since the snow fall, which increased the effort levels somewhat, even with snowshoes, but she did great and it was awesome to do with my parents.

Mike, my parents and I all headed to Rossland (Mike’s home town) just in time for Christmas. The parents met the parents… it was finally official. Of course, they all got on, making it a pretty awesome Christmas.

A vision I’ll never forget is taking Mum and Dad cross-country skiing. If Mum’s on anything other than her own 2 feet, she feels rather unstable, (after having a horrible road cycling crash a few years ago and knocking her teeth out, I can see where the issues stem from). However, she did great on the xc climb, she started to relax and things were looking promising for the way back down.

I wanted them to get the full Canadian experience, so we stopped off at a small little cabin on the side of the tracks, got the fire roaring and stuck some smokies in it.

On the way back down, Mum instantly became nervous, as she started picking up speed she panicked, not knowing a better solution, she forced herself to crash. She ripped off her skis in a huff and quickly had to start chasing after them as the bombed perfectly down the hill, even making the turn ahead.

We found a solution for Mum…

… She took her skis for a walk back to the car, and couldn’t have been happier.

I was sad to see my parents go home, but a couple of days after they left I started my job.

End of Part ONE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Final

fullsizeoutput_14Not even home for a week and there was another race, the last race of the season, the last race before I pack up and leave for Canada. At the time we didn’t know it, but it was also the last ever round of the British Enduro Series, at Innerliethen, Scotland. I thought I’d allowed myself to recover from my head injury, I didn’t feel great during practice, but I just put it down to needing to warm up on the bike, as I rode up to my first race run I started to see spots, felt lightheaded and nauseas … I hadn’t recovered. Game over, again. So once again I took the opportunity to spend time with Joel and I rode with him on his stage transitions. Joel did his usual finish on the podium, then we booked it home.

The next day the countdown really began, Mike arrived in Heathrow from Canada, I excitedly booted along the motorway, until … Pfffft, BANG, rattle, Smoke… lots of black smoke. Recorded death of Blueberry (aka, shitty bus) – Monday 10th October 2016, 10:00am. Mike sat waiting for me in the airport, while I posted up on the side of the motorway waiting for AA recovery. Just when I thought I couldn’t be busier, I had less than 2 weeks to plan my leaving/birthday party, fit in all my clients (for my mobile hairdressing, massage and beauty business) one last time, get ready to move to Canada, and get ready for my brother’s wedding!   All without my little blue van.

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Canadian Themed leaving party

^Photos thanks to – Dan Wyre Photography^

We pulled it off, Joel and Corinna had a beautiful small wedding the day before I left, making for an extremely emotional day with 52 of our family members being there on Joel and Corinnas special day, and saying bye to me and Mike.

It’s been a jam packed year, truly making the most of the British summer, with my friends, family and little pooches. Stay tuned to hear how things shape up in British Columbia, Canada.

THE END

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Five

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Me, my Uncle Luke and Dad, racing in Eastridge

There wasn’t time for any catching up when I got home, back just in time to compete in the Welsh Gravity Enduro, in Eastridge… my back garden.

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Before I’d unpacked from Canada, it was time to load up the van and head back to Europe. I spent the next three weeks on the road, competing in the final two rounds of the EWS (Enduro World Series) and a regional french race, run by 1001 Sentiers Enduro, which I ended up winning.

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Joel and I living out the back of the van

My brother, Joel, and I headed to Valberg-Guillaume together, It was an epic week of riding and racing in another quaint town in the French Alps.

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After the race I dropped Joel off at the airport so he could get back to his extremely new family, he had a 10 week old baby, 2 hyper dogs and a very patient newly proposed to Fiancé waiting for him in their construction site home.

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Joel and my beautiful little Niece

I spent just over a week on my own in the south of France, I camped, slept in the van, entered random races, won them; my favourite memory was waking up at 6am, sliding the van doors open, and lying there watching the ever changing colours of the backlit mountains as the sun rose into the sky.

After a week of nothing but bliss, alone on a mountain top, with nothing but my bike and the shining sun, I headed back to the rush of the city where I picked up Joel and our Friend Dan from the airport. The three of us cramped into the questionably three seater van (myself being the only one who could really fit in the middle seat) and headed straight to Finale Ligure, Italy, for the final round of the EWS. We met up with our friends Fay and Lee, who hooked us up with a local guy doing shuttles for practice, everyone was on their own program and if you didn’t sort out anything… tough luck! We were very lucky that Fay had done this before and had everything dialled, Joel and I aren’t known for our planning and organisation skills… we have much more of a “wing it and sing it” kind of style, which seems to work, mostly because we have some very organized friends who watch over us like angels (thanks buds).

We were living the dream in Italy; dry, long, technical, fast tracks, guided by a local, he even booked us in to a local restaurant for lunch, it was tucked away in the middle of the mountain, disguised as a locals home… in-fact, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t of been any more of a stereotypical Italian family’s home, a family run restaurant literally from their home, making their own wine, jam, olive oil, pesto, this place was magic. We sat in the patio area eating a 5 course lunch, whilst picking at the juicy grapes hanging over our heads.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst, I crashed during practice, it didn’t seem like it was a bad crash, I’ve definitely had worse. I landed straight on my head from a 5ft drop with speed, (suppose it’s not ideal) but I just brushed off the dust and carried on riding, it wasn’t until a few hours later I realised I was loosing my vision. I’ve had concussions before and always knew they were coming, but this one seemed to come from nowhere, as my vision narrowed, I started to feel nauseous with a splitting headache. I rested and drank a boat load of water, I really hoped I’d be ok to ride the following day, I was having so much fun riding with my brother and our friends, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

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The realization I can’t ride, but still hoping there’s a chance.

However, I woke up with the headache and nausea still lingering, the thought of crashing again and hitting my head just wasn’t worth it, Joel then told me he wouldn’t of let me ride anyway, he just hoped I’d figure it out on my own. Head injuries are not something to chance! So for the rest of the trip I became chef cheerleader; my parents were due to arrive, having planned their holiday around this race, which turned me into their guide, we got hold of some bikes and managed to follow Joel in the race by riding to starts and finishes of select stages.

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I suppose that’s the silver lining, I couldn’t race, but got to hang out with my parents and show them parts of the race they would never have been able to see without me. On Sunday morning I left early with Joel as he started the two hour climb to stage one of day two, Mum and Dad followed proudly in the car, Dad even got inspired and ran with us for the last few miles.

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Me and Mum

As soon as Joel finished the race we took our parents to our favourite Italian restaurant for Mums birthday, we were so happy to be able to show them this magical spot. The family showed us where they make their wine and even gifted us with some home made jam and wine for Mums birthday.

Joel and I headed back to the tent and got ready for an early exit, come 5am we were up and on the road, we had a long, cramped, hot and sticky drive back from Italy to Calais, Joel had a great time, but was now on a mission to get home.

END OF PART FIVE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Two

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The EWS in Ireland was incredible, and to be greeted with Irelands long lost friend, the sun, was a treat. I have never competed in such a positive race; it was a tough day on the bike, 7 different stages, 7 repetitive climbs; with each stage hosting a burly feature, there was no time for switching off. All stages were fun with challenging monster rock gardens, but stage 6 was a personal favourite: flat out, fun, steep and tech. The Irish crowds were beyond positive, only shouting out encouraging heckles; ‘Keep ‘er lit’ stayed ringing in my ears throughout the weekend.

Another wild opportunity I couldn’t walk away from; resulted in sailing up the west coast of Britain competing as a runner in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.

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Record breaking sailor, Dee Caffari, asked if I’d join her team of 5. Despite never stepping foot on a yacht before, yet alone any kind of sailing, there was no chance I’d be turning down an opportunity like that; with 3 months till the race, the bike season training program promptly switched to a heavy programme of running.

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Running in the Lake District – Photo Credit Mike Hopkins

The ‘Three Peaks Yacht Race’ was the hardest race I’ve ever done, taking 4.5 days to complete, involving: 389 miles of sailing, 57 miles of mountain running, 40 miles of cycling, 26 miles of rowing, 4 mountains, 5 summits, 14,500ft ascending, wobbly sea legs, vomit, diarrhoea, sleepless nights, 4 sunsets, 4 sunrises and one epic experience!  I’m a strong advocate for the quote “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.” However, this race was next level; pushing through the crippling stomach cramps whilst running down Scafell Pike, still only half way through the 9 hour excursion, and terrified to consume any form of energy (I’d also ran out of water). Crawling my way up the final mountain, I wished I would just pass out, feeling that was the only way the pain would end. My head was running wild, all the people who’d supported me kept popping up amongst the hallucinations and they honestly got me through, I couldn’t let them down. Once I got to the bike, the 20 miles back to the yacht seemed like nothing, another burst of energy kicked in and I was away, as we reached Whitehaven, finishing the 54 miles in 9 hours 13 minutes, I had the biggest smile and was stoked to do it all over again… Idiot!

Find out more about this race here … 3 Peaks Yacht Race..

END PART TWO

Summer Rush… Making it Count!

Stay tuned, as over the next few days I’ll be posting what I got up to during my last UK summer before moving to Canada…

 

It’s mid-November; blissfully cocooned, swinging in a technicoloured dream hammock, entranced by the midnight sky above Nicaragua, until annoyingly interrupted by the modern day bleep of my phone, this bleep, however, added to the tranquillity; there it was, sat in my inbox, a long awaited email from Canada immigration: “Congratulations, your visa has been accepted.”

Finally!!! I’d been stuck in transit on the waiting list for over 8 months.

I have one year to activate my visa; with plans for UK and European races already in full swing, the timer was activated to make this summer one to remember!

Combining a jam packed race schedule with a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) certainly makes for an eventful season.

For the first time ever, my brother, Joel and I headed into the season competing on the same team; if anyone would’ve told me six, or even two years ago, I’d be competing with him, I would’ve laughed in their face, hard. He’s an absolute boss on a bike; you don’t come across many 26 year olds who can say they’ve got 20 years of racing under their belt. I have a different tale to my brother, quite the late bloomer in the biking world, not discovering my bike passion until six years ago. So to now be racing with Joel, competing in all four European rounds of the Enduro World Series, all rounds of the British Enduro Series and whatever else we have time for, is pretty wild, I can’t think of a better way to spend my final UK summer.

Just as I’d mastered a race schedule for the year, an opportunity arose to work closely with my sponsors, Sealskinz, bringing to life my personal story for their ‘I am Endurance’ campaign. My story focuses on how mountain biking built up my confidence and strength, enabling my escape from a violent relationship. I’d been a shadow of my former self for 5 years, and biking saved me.

This is my story..

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My story not only inspired countless people, I’m proud to say it’s changed and saved lives and is being used across the country to help men and women get through abusive and tough situations. I’ve been contacted by ex-marines suffering from PTSD, policemen, Schools, Teachers, Women’s Refuges’, family members, old friends and complete strangers, thanking me for sharing my story and how it’s helped them gain and provide strength and move forward.

After the release of the story I made the finals for Women’s Sport Trust: ‘Be a Game Changer’ Awards. The awards clashed with the Irish round of the Enduro World Series, but this didn’t stop me, I did what had to be done to attend both. Joel drove to Ireland as planned, taxiing my bike; I hopped on the train, wide eyed and bushy tailed, entering the big old city smog of London; attended the awards, feeling a little star struck and out of place, surrounded by Olympians, TV presenters, film stars and journalists. My boyfriend, Mike Hopkins also burst through the door at the final hour; he’d travelled especially from Canada to be there with me, cutting it a touch fine jumping from the plane, navigating straight to the awards. All 300 guests were mesmerised by my video, and applauded me with a standing ovation; safe to say it was an overwhelming and emotional moment, with my parents sitting at the back of the room, taking it all in with me.

Finally, collapsing into bed by midnight, just to be woken by the squawking alarm at 3am ready to catch my flight to Ireland… This appears to have set the tone for the entire year…

END OF PART ONE